The RSPB science award medal

Conservation Science Awards 2017

Conservation Science Awards

We offer annual awards to recognise and celebrate excellence in conservation science.

Awards are given for: 

  • an outstanding PhD thesis in conservation science
  • a scientific paper of high conservation value

Award for an outstanding PhD 2017

This prize is awarded to a postgraduate who has been awarded a PhD in any area of conservation science at a UK university within the last two years. Students will be nominated by their academic departments, before the winner is chosen by our team of scientists. The winner will receive a specially commissioned medal and cash prize.

2017 Winner: Dr Jake Bicknell

Thesis title: Contemporary conservation in Guyana: the role of Reduced-Impact Logging and protected areas in a sustainable future

Institution: University of Kent

Jake’s research, conducted in Guyana, focussed on two key aspects of tropical forest conservation, both of which are globally relevant: (i) evaluating a widely promoted but under-evaluated sustainable forestry practice, reduced impact logging; and (ii) planning protected areas.

Jake examined reduced impact logging at a global scale, comparing the impacts of reduced impact logging and conventional selective logging on amphibians, birds, mammals and arthropods. His research provides categorical evidence that if timber harvesting procedures were improved in the vast areas allocated for timber extraction, the biodiversity value of an area larger than India would be increased substantially.

Jake’s research has had significant impact in policy terms. The systematic conservation planning assessment has been particularly influential in-country, the recommendations of which have been taken on-board by the Government of Guyana, and will consequently contribute to long-term sustainability in one of the world’s most biodiverse countries.

Jake Bicknell Science awards winner 2017
Dr Jake Bicknell

Award for a scientific paper of high conservation importance 2017

This award is given for a scientific paper published in a peer-reviewed journal that is likely to have a significant impact on conservation. The award is open to papers from around the globe, but excludes papers co-authored by our RSPB scientists.


2017 Winner: Dr Mathilde Baude

Paper: Historical nectar assessment reveals the fall and rise of floral resources in Britain

Authors: Mathilde Baude, William E. Kunin, Nigel D. Boatman, Simon Conyers, Nancy Davies, Mark A. K. Gillespie, R. Daniel Morton, Simon M. Smart & Jane Memmott

This paper elegantly combines long-term national surveys with experimental work to illustrate the linkages between natural resources and an ecosystem service, and shows the importance of semi natural habitats, not just to biodiversity conservation, but also to other widespread land-uses dependent on pollination and to food production.

This is an important paper, as it directly links the fate of plant species and the pollinators which rely on them, and on which we rely for an important ecosystem service. The authors used both national botanical survey data and specific nectar productivity of 260 common plant species to model nectar availability to pollinators between the 1930’s and 2007 in the UK. They conclude that nectar availability declined between the 1930s and 1970s, stabilising by 1978, and then increased from this lower level to 2007. This temporal availability pattern mirrors changes in pollinator species’ abundance over the same period.

Diversity of plant species providing nectar showed a decline, to the extent that only four plant species were providing more than 50% of national nectar by 2007, three of which are species of non-farmed habitats. Broadleaved woodland and calcareous grassland are consistently the biggest providers from the highest diversity of sources, whilst arable land is the poorest. Agri-environment schemes provide resources within arable landscapes but their national contribution is low, indeed lower than that of well-managed hedgerows.

Mathilde Baude Science awards winner 2017
Dr Mathilde Baude

Award for an Outstanding RSPB Conservation Scientist 2017

The award is given to a colleague who's made a very significant contribution to the RSPB's science over the previous year. This contribution can encompass any aspect of our scientific work, from initial ideas and innovation to implementation, a one-off or a general contribution, field or deskwork, administrative, technical or scientific work.

Our science team submitted nominations and, after short-listing three, voted for their winner.

2017 winner: Trevor Smith

With 20 years of continuous service for the RSPB (and most of that in Conservation Science), Trevor Smith is this year's winner of the Centre for Conservation Science staff award.

Trevor received his award from RSPB Chair, Kevin Cox, at last week's Annual Science Meeting.

Trevor is hugely knowledgeable and a great asset to the RSPB. Showing huge commitment to our work and science, he's collected data that's gone on to inform RSPB policy and advocacy for a wide range of species and habitats across the UK.

He's endured the toughest of fieldwork conditions — from searching for capercaillie in frozen Scottish forests to ending up neck-deep in a slurry pit — and has put up with 20 years of moving across the country from project to project, yet he remains dedicated, humble and a jolly nice chap.

Currently Trevor is involved in research into the effectiveness of different methods of restoring blanket bog on areas of forestry plantations to benefit breeding waders and other important bog species.

Award for an Outstanding RSPB Conservation Scientist 2017 - Trevor Smith
Trevor Smith